Linda Tuero – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of FameTennis Player, 1958-73
Forty years after retiring from competitive tennis, Tuero’s career accomplishments still resonate at the Hall of Fame level. Six national championships before finishing high school, the first female scholarship athlete at Tulane University, the top-ranked woman in the world under the age of 21, a U.S. Open Clay Court Singles title, a quarterfinalist at the French Open, the Italian Open Singles Champion. From being a prodigy at 10 years old to being ranked No. 10 in the world upon her retirement, Tuero proved herself to be one of the top athletes in New Orleans history.
Although Tuero’s career, at least at the pro level, was relatively brief – she retired prior to her 25th birthday – it was momentous on many levels. As an amateur, she won those six national age-group championships as well as the girls’ National Interscholastic Championship while at St. Martin’s Episcopal School. Her success led legendary Tulane tennis coach Emmett Paré (a 1981 inductee into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame) to make her the first female to receive an athletic grant-in-aid to play for the Green Wave.
Both Paré and Tuero were going out onto a limb of sorts as Tulane did not have a women’s varsity tennis program, meaning that Tuero would have to play against men.
Just being on the squad didn’t mean total parity, however. It was decided that Tuero would not accompany her male teammates on road trips, and she would only be matched against a man with a visiting school if the coach and player each consented. Not everyone did, which is why Tuero played a limited college schedule, going 8-1.
“My teammates were great. Real gentlemen,” recalled Tuero, who usually played the No. 5 or No. 6 singles position. “And the guys I played against were very nice, too. I think they understood and appreciated the position I was in. I never had any issues with any of them. There wasn’t any resentment toward me on their part, as far as I could tell. Maybe those were the players who had decided beforehand that they wouldn’t be totally mortified if they lost to a woman.”
More likely, they probably thought that no woman could cope with the advantage in power that members of their gender presumably held in any competitive sport. Tuero admits that the Green Wave’s better players at the time were big serve-and-volley types whose strengths negated her steady baseline game. But she made few mistakes, and tennis people still talk about the one match in which she and her opponent exchanged well-placed strokes on a single point that lasted more than 15 minutes.
After Tulane, she was very successful in the professional ranks, including posting a perfect record – OK, so it’s only 1-0 – against Martina Navratilova, then a Czechoslovakian teenager new to the American tennis scene and the pro tour.
“I played all the top women – Billie Jean, Chrissie (Evert), Evonne Goolagong, Nancy Richey, Margaret Court,” Tuero recalled. “You know, it’s funny. I went to dinner with Martina in Aspen (Colorado) back in, I’m guessing, 1995. I couldn’t believe she still remembered our match. She even remembered the score. I didn’t remember it, and I won.”
Though at the top of her game following the Italian Open Championship in 1972, Tuero’s passion for the game was waning, leading to her early retirement.
“Honestly, I kind of lost interest,” she admitted in a recent article in The Oregonian newspaper. “I would go out on court and I wasn’t nervous. When I wasn’t nervous I knew something was wrong. The desire, the will to win: I’d always had that. It was why I won, not that I was faster or stronger than anyone else. But it just wasn’t there anymore.”
In 2000, she went back to Tulane to get a Masters in Anthropology, which led to her current focus on anthropology, paleontology, and geology. She participated in an excavation in Kenya, which was sponsored by Rutgers University, and is looking forward to a planned second visit to Patagonia to study fossils of ancient whales found in that country’s desert.
“This subject matter just fascinates me the way that tennis did,” she said. “I guess you could say one passion just led to another.”
She is married to Dr. Bill Lindsley and lives in Sea Island, Ga. She has three children and one grandchild; Billy Blatty, Jennifer Blatty and grandson Gabe live in New Orleans; David Paul lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
Story submitted by Bernard Fernandez for the Greater New Orleans Sports Selection Committee.